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Between Truth and Absolution

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Between Truth and Absolution

Chapter 1

Guilty.

The verdict is read with grim gravity, and the gallery erupts into cheers and jeers—cheers for him, jeers for the defendant, and Klavier forces himself to smile for his fans even as his stomach clenches into a knot and his pulse pounds hard enough in his ears to drown out the sound of the crowd.

Guilty, he hears in time to the beating of his heart.

The defense attorney doesn't say anything. He is a man twice Klavier's age, not Justice or the young woman who has been standing by Justice's side in court lately, and the man's scowl as he packs up his bag and turns away says all that Klavier needs to know. This is not a man who will greet him in the corridor, who will congratulate him on his victory or tell him that his deductions are right. This is a man who will ignore him, who will be paid by the defendant to look for any loop-holes, any appeals that might be possible.

Guilty, he still hears echoing, and though his breathing is easier now his pulse still pounds and his hands, if he takes them off the prosecutor's bench, will be shaking.

The defendant glares at him, a look of pointed daggers and absolute hatred that Klavier will see in his dreams tonight.

Guilty, Klavier forces himself to breathe on a whisper, and it is not Klavier's fault that this man murdered his step-son in order to take his inheritance. It is not Klavier's fault that for some people life is cheap and a small fortune is only good for getting to a bigger fortune. It is not Klavier's fault that the defendant will almost certainly be sentenced to death for his heinous actions.

And you are absolutely certain of his guilt? The voice whispers in his ears around the lingering echo of guilty, and Klavier forces his hands to move, to begin clearing off his own bench and tidying up his bag. It will look strange if he doesn't, after all. Someone will come and ask him what he is doing, and then he will have to either lie to them or evade the question, because he cannot answer it truthfully.

(Cannot, because he can't even name the voice that whispers now. Is it his? Kristoph's? They have always sounded as well as looked similar, and he has been Kristoph's puppet for years without knowing, and he can't say for certain and—)

"It's not going to stick."

Klavier startles, jumping back in what is obviously surprise and panic, cursing himself inwardly even as his body acts. He should be aware enough of his surroundings so someone's approach isn't a surprise, and if he is surprised, then years of dealing with fans and papparazzi have taught him to hide it.

The defendant smiles at him even as the bailiff places a hand on the man's elbow, clearly intent on leading him off, and it is a smile that is all teeth and feral hatred. "This verdict, I won't allow it to stick, and given the current state of the law... well, enjoy your victory while you can, Gavin, but it won't be for long."

Klavier blinks, and for a moment the pounding in his head clears as he studies the man before him. Guilty, the voice in his head whispers, but it is a sigh of relief now, because he is for a few more minutes completely certain it is true. He has seen what the falsely accused and convicted look like—seen the confusion, the disbelief, the hesitant shock, and this is not it. "Fight all you want, Herr Killer. Appeal all you want. I will be there, and the evidence will be there, and the truth will be there, and no amount of money in the world will change that."

The man doesn't have time to reply before the bailiff pulls him along, out into the defendant's lobby, and Klavier finishes packing up with a smile on his face.

A smile that fades as he walks out of the courtroom, a niggling worm of doubt settling in again. Perhaps he is wrong. Perhaps the man is angry because he is innocent, and instead of turning inward to find solace and certainty he is lashing out at the man who hurt him. Perhaps—

"Prosecutor Gavin!"

Klavier flinches before he can stop himself. His name, he reminds himself as he takes a steadying breath. Whenever there is prosecutor in front of that name it is his, and the fact that he cannot even claim his name now without pain is just silly. The Gavinners had nothing to do with Kristoph. His own career, for the most part, has nothing to do with Kristoph. So why has he started to flinch whenever he hears his family name, as though it is tainted irredeemably by association?

(And perhaps it is, perhaps he is, perhaps the reporters asking him over and over how involved he had been in Kristoph's schemes are not simply hunting for fresh blood in the water but—)

"Hi, Klavier!" The girl in the top hat bounces to a stop in front of him. She is smiling at him, an innocent, excited expression as she beams a wide grin over the top of the awkwardly-wrapped gift that she is holding out to him. "You were amazing today! It's funny getting to watch you from the gallery instead of from the defense's bench, but I still enjoyed it."

Klavier finds himself relaxing and returning the girl's smile almost against his will—certainly against his better judgment. Because if Trucy Wright is here, in the prosecutor's area, and Apollo Justice is not here, then a betting man would expect—

"A well-planned and well-executed attack." Phoenix Wright smiles, too, but it isn't the open, honest expression that his daughter wears. It isn't a dark or threatening smile, like the defendant wore, either, but Klavier doesn't like it, and he certainly doesn't like the way Wright always directs it at him whenever they meet.

"Herr Wright." Klavier tries to speak neutrally, to maintain the smile that he donned for Trucy, and he thinks he succeeds, for the most part. And if he can't quite look Phoenix in the eye, if he can't quite bring himself to meet the still-bitter gaze of the man whose life he helped destroy, well, who could really blame him? "Fraulein Magician. It is good to see you, Trucy."

"Good to see you too, Klavier. I've missed you. We don't get to see you nearly often enough unless we're on the same case." Trucy sighs, lips turning down in a small pout.

"Well, that just means that Herr Forehead and I shall have to work more of the same cases, no?" Klavier finds that if he stays focused on Trucy, bends down slightly and keeps his eyes just on her face, it is easy to keep his smile in place. (Easy to avoid looking at her father, to avoid thinking of her father.) There is a brightness and warmth about the girl, a sincerity and exuberance, that he has appreciated since their first encounter.

"Yes!" Trucy nods enthusiastically. "Or you can work opposite Athena—she's Daddy's new employee, and she's super cool! She's not that much older than me, but she speaks something like a dozen langauges and she already passed the bar exam, which is something Daddy still hasn't managed to do again—"

"Because I haven't tried yet, Trucy, don't make it sound like I failed—"

"—and I just think that you'll like her. I know I really do, though Polly is of course our best employee, since he came first. That's why we still give him all the good cases." Trucy hugs the gift-wrapped box to her chest, seeming to have forgotten about it in her excitement to catch up with him about their mutual acquaintances.

Klavier finds himself touched by both her words and the gesture. He has given himself little time outside work for the last few months, and he can count on one hand the number of acquaintances who have reached out to him since Kristoph's arrest. At least, those who have wanted him, and not confirmation of theories and stories or an exclusive interview or permission to sell some piece of memorabilia for an exorbitant price once it became clear that he truly was disbanding the Gavinners. "And what kind of cases might those be, Fraulein Magician?"

"Anything and everything we can find, of course! So far this week Polly's helped people paint a fence, find a lost dog, track down a no-good cheating husband, and retrieve a winning lottery ticket."

Klavier frowns, trying to imagine Apollo doing... well, any of those tasks. "Those... do not sound like the kind of job Herr Forehead..." Trucy's eyes narrow, and Klavier searches for a tactful way to make his point. "...trained for."

"No." Trucy rolls her eyes. "But legal cases only come around every so often, especially ones with clients that we can actually accept and that me, Apollo, Athena, or Daddy aren't convinced are lying murderers or kidnappers or cheaters who actually deserve to go to jail. That means that members of the Wright Anything Agency have to be prepared to take on any task, and me and Polly are really good at it."

Klavier smiles, imagining the look on Apollo's face when Trucy has no doubt explained her theory to him in the past. It would have been nice to be there, to see it. "I bet that you are, Fraulein."

"Of course we are!" Trucy has no doubt charmed a great many people out of their money with that grin of hers, and Klavier realizes with a start that she is not that much younger than he was when the Gavinners made their hugely sucessful debut. A moment after the realization comes the doubt—always doubt now, no matter where he is or what he is doing—the worry that perhaps the joy and cheer he appreciates in the girl is a facade, a cover, the persona that she wears as a showman.

"I've missed you, since we're not seeing you in court, though, and you're not on television much anymore, or at least not when you're actually talking and smiling and looking like you, so I asked Daddy to look up when you'd next be in court so that we could come see you." The girl looks down at the box in her arms, expression suddenly shy, and Klavier regrets doubting her sincerity. "And I found this for you. Assuming you don't mind me giving you a present."

Dropping down to one knee makes him shorter than the girl, and Klavier puts on his most dashing grin as he takes one of her hands off the box and kisses the back of it. "I would accept a gift from you at any time, Fraulein Magician, though the gift of your presence and joy of your company is more than enough."

The noise that Phoenix Wright makes is more like a growl than a cough, and Klavier hastily releases Trucy's hand, trying not to cringe away. He has done—is doing—nothing wrong.

(And Phoenix is not the first parent he has angered, not by a long shot, but Phoenix's mere presence hurts whenever Klavier allows himself to acknowledge it, Phoenix's gaze is boring through him like hot brands, and he must focus just on the girl if he is going to make it through this.)

Trucy grins at him, bouncing on the balls of her feet in excitement. "The gift of our presence is actually due to Uncle Edgeworth—"

"Prosecutor Edgeworth!" Phoenix's voice is half-exasperated, half-embarassed.

"But this gift is all from me and all to you!" Trucy holds out the box.

Klavier accepts it gravely, fingers running over the uneven wrapping. "Would you like me to open it now?"

"Of course!" Trucy crosses her arms behind her back, hands clasped together. "I want to see what you think of it. I tried to find something that I thought you would enjoy."

The paper comes off in one smooth piece, and Klavier stares down at the box, making sure that a smile stays fixed on his face even as all emotion seems to evaporate out of him.

"Aren't they just adorable?" Trucy points down through the clear plastic of the box at a crying blue rhinoceros in a suit. "Rhiny's my favorite—he just looks so sad and like he needs a hug. I like Phanty, too, he just looks so cute with his paint brush, but he doesn't look like he needs a hug."

"More like a spanking." Phoenix's hand falls on his daughter's head, ruffling her hair and earning a squeak of protest.

"So..." Trucy's right hand creeps up to the collar of her outfit, toys with the catch there as she stares down at him with growing nervousness. "I thought... since they're themed after the legal system, like your songs are... that maybe you'd like them?"

Klavier is still smiling. He can feel the expression on his face through the numbness, and he makes sure it stays in place as he forces his eyes to meet Trucy's. "It is a very thoughtful gift, and you are correct that it fits in thematically with the rest of my life. I don't have words to properly express my gratitude."

A soft sound draws Trucy's eyes up to her father, though Klavier can't bring himself to look. Allows his eyes to fall down to the blue-suited, teary-eyed rhinoceros toy in the box instead, which is almost like looking at Wright but not nearly as painful. "You could always start by saying thank you, rock star."

"Daddy—"

"I am not a rock star anymore, Herr Wright." Klavier makes sure to enunciate each word clearly, to breathe in deeply and out evenly so that there is no waver to his voice. "I am just a prosecutor. And I thank your daughter very much for a very kind gift. It truly does mean a lot to me, Trucy."

"Klavier..." Trucy's right hand reaches out towards him, though she hesitates before actually touching him.

As well she should. The fact that they were friends for a few months pales to insignificance next to the injuries he has done to her family.

Standing, holding the collector's box with the stuffed toys to his chest with his right arm, Klavier tries to dredge up a more honest smile for the girl. "It has been some time since I received such a thoughtful gift from anyone. Thank you, both for seeking me out and for the gift."

"You're welcome." Trucy frowns between him and Phoenix, left arm hugging her stomach in a clear gesture of discomfort. "Are you okay, Klavier? You seem..."

"I am fine, Fraulein. Just tired after a long day in court." Gesturing towards the door, Klavier picks up his bag in his free hand. "Would you give me the pleasure of your company on the way to my car?"

"Yeah." Trucy is still eyeing him speculatively, clearly unsettled by some of his reactions.

"I will put these in a place of honor in my office." Klavier lifts the box with the stuffed animals. "That way I will be able to see them and remember that I have a wonderful friend who has very good taste in paralegal paraphernalia."

Trucy gives his elbow a tiny shove. "That's not how you're supposed to use paralegal."

"Perhaps not, but songwriters are allowed some poetic license with words, ja?" Klavier's smile is more honest as he pushes his way into the main corridor. "And these friends of ours are based around but not directly associated with the legal system, so paralegal seems appropriate."

"Mmm, I guess it's better than alternatives..."

"They are rather cute designs." Phoenix glances down at the box. "The one thing I don't really like is the color that they chose for Phanty."

"I know." Trucy moans out a sigh. "Red's an awesome color, and it's a good complement to blue, so I guess I get why they did it, but red's Polly's color. Or Uncle Edgeworth's—"

"Prosecutor Edgeworth, please, Trucy, just when we're here—"

Trucy doesn't seem to hear her father's protest. "—and is therefore definitely not associated with bad things. Though maybe Phanty's rehabilitatable? Like Uncle Edgeworth..."

"Edgeworth never fell as far as using forged evidence to get false convictions." Phoenix's eyes have taken on a far-away cast as he slouches along at his daughter's side, looking conspicuous in his jeans and hat that hide him in a crowd but make him obvious here. "And he's spent the last decade fighting against corruption of all types."

"I know." Trucy sighs. "They definitely should have picked a different color."

"A darker color, I think." Phoenix's eyes snap into sharp focus again, flicking up and down Klavier's body with clear disdain. "But who am I to say what would be the best one to use?"

Klavier pushes through the door into the parking garage, and though the late spring air is still cool it provides him with an excuse for his hitching breath.

Guilty, someone whispers in his head in time with his pulse, him or his brother, and he knows without Phoenix saying more what color Phoenix believes the Phony Phanty toy should be. "I... need to get back to the office. I still have a good deal of paperwork to do to wrap up this case, and I am certain the Chief Prosecutor will have more work for me soon."

Miles Edgeworth has been Chief Prosecutor for only a little over four months now, but he seems determined to keep Klavier busy, piling case after case onto Klavier's desk. Given that Klavier has been trying to keep himself occupied with work—to keep himself out of the spotlight and away from crowds unless it is in the controlled environment of work, where he can be certain that no one will approach him with unpleasant questions about Kristoph—the arrangement has worked out well.

Though given that Phoenix and Trucy are apparently very familiar with Prosecutor Edgeworth, perhaps there is good reason for the extra work. Punishment, for what Klavier did? Or a test—waiting for Klavier to make more mistakes, to prove that he is either incompetent or evil?

"Klavier..." Trucy hesitates for a moment, then throws her arms around him in a hug that nearly drops both of them to the floor. Looking up at him, she frowns, her eyes full of fierce determination. "Keep in touch with us, all right? Call me or Apollo if you need to talk. Or just to let us know how you're doing. We miss you."

"Ach, Fraulein, it is easy to find out how I am doing." Stroking his hand over the girl's hair, Klavier gives her a small but very genuine smile. "So long as I am doing my job, you will be able to follow me through the news."

Trucy narrows her eyes. "If you're going to be like that, I'm going to lay in wait for you in the prosecutor's lobby when you least expect it and demand you talk to us. Uncle Edgeworth will let me."

This time Phoenix just sighs.

Klavier keeps his attention focused on Trucy. "Now that you have told me, it will not be as much of a surprise, ja?"

"You don't know when I'll be here or who or what I'll be with." Trucy sticks her tongue out at him. "So it'll be a whole lot easier if you just call every week or so, yeah?"

"I will endeavor to keep you updated, though I fear my life has become rather boring lately. There is not much I will be doing that your companions at the Agency will not also be doing." Except for the fact that they save people, while he sends them to their deaths.

(Is this what you imagined when you turned on me, Klavier? Kristoph's voice had been so quiet, so calm, more contemplative than accusatory after his sentence was read. Death by hanging, to be carried out when all Kristoph's appeals have been exhausted. Is this where your justice leads—to your best friend's and your brother's blood on your hands?)

"Klavier, promise me." Trucy's hand is warm as it grasps his, her expression deathly earnest. "Promise me you're going to keep in touch with us, and that you're going to be okay."

Klavier once again dredges up his stage-door smile. "I promise. I will call you, and I will be fine."

Trucy's fingers squeeze his, but there is abruptly a sheen of tears in her eyes, and she turns and runs before he can say anything more.

Phoenix follows her back into the building, throwing Klavier an accusatory look as he does, and Klavier finds himself alone in the parking lot.

Picking up his bag, he turns and slowly makes his way to his car, each step feeling like far more work than it should.

XXX

"Trucy?" Phoenix catches up to his daughter in a small alcove, next to a tree that could be Charlie's twin. Except, Phoenix realizes as he settles down next to Trucy's shivering body, this plant is plastic, while Charlie is still, by some miracle, alive. "Trucy, what is it?"

Trucy's right hand is at her collar, her left wrapped around her middle, and small shivers shake her shoulders. "He..."

Reaching out gingerly, Phoenix strokes Trucy's back, hand moving in small circles. He doesn't understand. Gavin had seemed perfectly normal to him—reticent and stand-offish with Phoenix, yes, but neither of them is the other's favorite person. Gavin stole seven years of Phoenix's life; Phoenix will be there to watch Gavin's brother hang. They've little reason to like each other, though Phoenix doesn't begrudge Trucy the affection that she clearly feels for the young prosecutor, and Gavin has been kind enough to both Trucy and Apollo over the course of their acquaintance.

"He's lying, Daddy." Trucy looks up at him, her eyes holding a combination of tears, fear, and outrage. "About both things! He's not going to keep in touch with me, and he's... he's really not okay. At all. And I... I don't think he can imagine himself being okay again."

"Ah." Phoenix sighs, closing his eyes for a moment, keeping his hand on Trucy's back. He should have guessed what she was doing, really, when she insisted that Gavin give her a straight answer to both requests. Trucy may not have a bracelet to help her pick up on lies, but her eyes are sharp and her instincts sharper, and if she knows exactly when to be looking... "It could just be that he's busy, you know. Uncle Edgeworth doesn't see us for stretches of time when work's super busy."

"Prosecutor Edgeworth also tells us when he's not going to be around for a while, and he'll call you if things change." Trucy stares up at him, eyes still filled with worry.

"Well..." Phoenix sighs again. "Trucy, I'm sure he's fine. You saw him in court today, right? He did fantastically. He fought hard, he played to the gallery, he played the judge... that wasn't the performance of someone who's really in trouble. Yeah?"

Trucy bites her lip for a moment before nodding reluctantly. "He did do really well. Just as well as when he's been facing Polly and me."

"Maybe he just doesn't like phones. Maybe it was the calling you part that was the lie, but he'll send you letters or something." Phoenix shrugs. "Or maybe he's planning on starting up that silly band of his again and—"

"The Gavinners are not silly, they're awesome!" Trucy glares up at him, indignant.

Which is at least an improvement, and Phoenix raises both hands in mock surrender. "All right, maybe he's going to get his awesome band up and running again. I know there've been a bunch of different groups asking him for just one more performance, including his alma mater. Things like that can keep you really busy."

"I guess." Trucy considers, expression sliding from dubious to hopeful. "You're probably right, Daddy. But can we ask Uncle Edgeworth to keep an eye on him anyway? I like Klavier, and I know he was really hurt after... after everything, and I want to make sure he's all right."

"We'll ask him." Phoenix ruffles Trucy's hair, earning a swat to his hand as Trucy grumbles about how he's going to make it stick up. "But I'm sure Edgeworth's already got an eye on him, so don't you worry, all right?"

Trucy nods. "All right! Time to catch the bus home so we can get ready for my magic show tonight?"

Phoenix glances at his watch and nods, rising a bit more slowly than Trucy and ambling after her through the far-better-dressed crowds. If anyone recognizes him, they don't say anything, and Phoenix is glad to be just another spectator for a little bit. He will have to retake the bar exam—soon, if he wants to help Edgeworth with his problem, and he has already filed most of the paperwork—but being in the courthouse is still a strange combination of heady excitement and bitter despair.

Maybe helping Athena and Apollo through a few more cases will help excitement overwrite all the darker emotions.

"Daddy, come on." Trucy tugs on his hand, dragging him along.

Phoenix follows, smiling at one of the best things to ever happen to him—something he most likely wouldn't have had if not for Kristoph and Klavier Gavin and the mess they made of his life.

He spares a few seconds to hope that Klavier really is all right, but then they're out in the sun and running to catch a bus that is already pulling away and all thoughts of the Gavins fade away, lost beneath the hectic beauty that is his life.

XXX

"Open the door, Gavin."

Klavier flinches, though the whispered words are his own. Too much like Kristoph. He sounds too much like Kristoph when he whispers, but he can't speak any louder, and singing is right out of the question until he's back in his own office.

An office that is just on the other side of the door in front of him, and all he needs to do is reach out his hand and twist the knob, but he can't bring himself to do it.

"There's nothing terrible in there." Even if he sounds like Kristoph, there is still a chance he will be able to talk himself into doing what should be easy. "Just paperwork. Just finish filing the paperwork—"

Record the guilty verdict, set it in stone and create defenses against false appeals, because he is certain, he has to be certain, there is no other possible culprit—

"Gavin?"

He flinches, a shuddering of his whole body away from the name, and Klavier raises panicked eyes to find Chief Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth staring at him.

"Prosecutor Gavin?" The way Edgeworth says the name makes it clear that this is a slow repetition of what he said before.

Klavier draws a deep breath. His name, his title, and he needs to pull himself together and stop looking like an absolute idiot in front of his boss. "Sir. Is there something I can do for you?"

"I was bringing you a new case, as well as my congratulations on another job well done." Edgeworth gestures with a file that is held loosely in his left hand. The fingers of his right are drumming in rhythm against his leg, and his eyes are still fixed warily on Klavier.

"Well, then, let me invite you in." Klavier's fingers still want to slide away from the door handle, as though it were red-hot, but Klavier forces them to behave. He will not embarrass himself more than he already has.

"An interesting choice of decor." Edgeworth inclines his head toward the stuffed animals that Klavier is still holding as Klavier throws open the door and maneuvers himself, his bag, and the box inside.

"A gift, from a..." Klavier hesitates, not certain what word to use for Trucy. Friend? Rival, since she stands with Apollo against him in court? Eventually he falls back on old habits. "From a fan."

"Hmm." The noise that Edgeworth makes is difficult to parse—strange, because Edgeworth is usually a very up-front and almost confrontational man, for all his dignity and poise. He follows Klavier into his office, though, closing the door behind him.

Klavier drops his bag next to his desk, dumps the box with the stuffed animals on top of it, and gestures for Edgeworth to seat himself before realizing that the visitor's chair has about four inches of paperwork and a tray with last night's attempt at forcing food into his system on it.

Edgeworth just looks at the chair, staying where he is, only a faint twitch of one eyebrow indicating his disapproval.

Klavier tries not to flush, though he can feel his face heating. He is not the most orderly person at the best of times, and if he is being honest with himself the last few weeks have not been the best of times. He can find what he needs, though—especially now that he has stripped everything related to the Gavinners from his office and exiled the half-completed songs that he hasn't touched in over a month to the darkness of a bottom drawer. Since Edgeworth will have to stand, Klavier stays standing. Gesturing at the file in Edgeworth's hand, he hopes the man will simply hand it over and leave Klavier to drown himself in yet more work. "That is a case you wish for me to handle?"

"Yes." Edgeworth speaks with quiet precision, stepping forward and holding out the file for Klavier to take. "I think you'll find it a relatively open-and-shut affair, Gavin, b..."

Klavier raises his eyes to meet Edgeworth's sharp gaze, then hastily lowers them to the file again. It's clear that something he did has upset Edgeworth, but he can't imagine what it is. "I will begin work immediately. Detective Skye and I will keep you updated on our findings."

"Do that, Klavier." Miles' right hand is still drumming against his leg, and his eyes are narrowed behind his glasses.

Klavier flips past the photos of the body, heading for the autopsy report and the crime scene photos. He will come back to the body later, when he has a better idea what he may need to look for—when he will know this victim, and not imagine someone else's face over theirs. "No problem, Herr Katze."

"Katze?"

Klavier's head jerks up, and he winces as he realizes that he just used the nickname he crafted for Chief Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth months ago in front of the man himself. "Sorry, sir, I—"

Edgeworth raises his right hand in a clear gesture for Klavier to shut up. When he speaks, it's in German—a clear and precise German, with the same accent that Klavier himself has. Did Edgeworth spend time in a German university at some point? "No need to apologize, Klavier. I somehow managed to forget that you're bilingual as well."

Given that Edgeworth doesn't seem terribly upset at him, Klavier decides engaging in the conversation would probably be best and allows the file to fall shut. "It would have been hard to pass the bar exam there without speaking the language, ja?"

"Indeed." Edgeworth continues in German, and Klavier finds himself relaxing almost despite himself, smiling at the familiar contours of the language he loves and usually has little excuse to speak outside concerts and trips back to Europe. "My sister tells me stories about the German bar exam and how much more difficult it is than ours. That could just be Franziska, though—she sometimes has a tendency to exaggerate if she thinks it will give her a leg up. I'm sure you don't want to hear about my family, though."

Klavier is actually rather curious about Miles Edgeworth and his mystery German sister—he has heard nothing about Edgeworth having any family whatsoever. The man seems to be married to his job and a permanent fixture in either the Chief Prosecutor's office or the precinct. The only thing humanizing about him that Klavier has observed so far in their acquaintance is the Steel Samurai statue sitting on his windowsill, and Klavier was never sure quite what to make of it.

Edgeworth continues. "I was more curious that you decided to call me cat."

Klavier shrugs. "I also considered Silver Fox, but I thought people might get the wrong idea."

The corners of Edgeworth's lips twitch in what might be the faintest smile Klavier has ever seen. "Yes, I could see that. Well, Prosecutor Gavin, I..."

Again a pause, a tensing of Edgeworth's muscles and a tightening of his eyes that deepens the furrow on his brow. Klavier can feel his fingers tighening around the file, crushing the edge as adrenaline floods his veins again, at a loss as to what he may be doing to cause upset. Unless Edgeworth really doesn't like the nickname? He can always come up with another one, it's not like—

"Call me whatever you want when there are no subordinates around. And use whichever language you want. It will help to keep me from getting rusty." Edgeworth slips back into English between one sentence and the next. "Is there... anything that you need, Klavier?"

Klavier stares at his boss.

Edgeworth stares back at him.

The silence stretches, long and awkward, and Klavier forces a smile onto his face. "I am fine, Herr Katze. I will have papers on your desk to sign within the hour from my trial, and then I will join Detective Skye and begin working on this one. Is there anything else you need from me?"

"No." Edgeworth's chest moves in what appears to be a silent sigh. "Carry on, Prosecutor Gavin."

Turning on his heel, Edgeworth stalks out of Klavier's cluttered office, closing the door with a soft click behind him.

Collapsing down in his chair, Klavier allows himself a minute to catch his breath and still the trembling of his hands before he throws himself back into his work with a vengeance.

XXX

Phoenix takes the stairs up to the Chief Prosecutor's office.

He could take the elevator—unlike Edgeworth, he has nothing against elevators—but, as Edgeworth says, the stairs are good exercise.

And it means he won't end up stuck in an elevator trying to explain or evade explaining his presence to someone who may-or-may-not know who he is.

His suit feels heavy and awkward on his body still. He supposes he will get used to it—remembers when he used to love the way a suit felt and looked on him, proof along with his badge that he was someone respectable, someone to be listened to. He has spent so much time slouching and hiding his identity and avoiding the spotlight over the last few years that it feels strange to dress up again now.

Edgeworth would not be very happy if he showed up in the Chief Prosecutor's office dressed in his usual outfit, though, and this is what the suit is for. For taking his life back. For getting used to being a part of the legal system again. For being Phoenix Wright, defense attorney, even if his lapel is still barren and the date for his retaking the bar exam still up in the air—not because anyone has thrown any roadblocks in his way, it has so far been a remarkably easy process, but because he hasn't chosen a date yet.

And he is taking the stairs up Chief Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth's office, though he has been invited, has every right to be in the building.

He doesn't meet anyone in the corridor leading to Edgeworth's door. It is after hours, so Phoenix supposes that most of those who aren't preternaturally driven have gone home.

Knocking on the door, he waits for Edgeworth's soft come in before entering.

"Wright." Edgeworth actually smiles as he looks up from some papers he is signing. "Thank you for coming."

"How could I turn down an invitation from you, Edgeworth?" Phoenix returns the smile. "So what's up? More information on Blackquill's case and this phantom we're chasing?"

"I wish." Miles sighs, pushing papers out of the way so that he has room to rest his elbows on his desk. "No, nothing quite so... professional, I'm afraid. I'm sorry if I gave you that impression when I asked you to meet me."

"Not professional?" Phoenix ignores the guest chair, knowing it will put him on a lower level than Edgeworth so that Edgeworth can stare down at and intimidate him. As if being stared at by a man who can spend hours debating Steel Samurai minutia with Maya could ever be truly intimidating. Instead he settles himself on the edge of Miles' desk, staring down into his silver eyes. "Does that mean this is a personal visit?"

"It means I need to talk to you about something..." Edgeworth pauses, clearly choosing his words carefully as he leans back in his chair. "Something related to the Prosceutor's Office, but that you might find... difficult."

Phoenix narrows his eyes. "This isn't about me getting my badge back, right? Because I'm working on it. I'm almost there. Or is this about Apollo or Athena? If someone's gunning for one of them—"

"No, your proteges are fine. So far as I know, at least." Edgeworth sighs, left hand creeping across his chest until his fingers tighten on his right arm. "It's about Gavin."

"Gavin." Phoenix repeats the name, relieved that this isn't some new trouble, not certain he likes the idea of old trouble resurfacing. "Kristoph or Klavier?"

"Kristoph's on death row, and I intend to make sure he stays there, helpless and hopeless, until his execution." There is a savage certainty to the way Miles bites out the words, an almost feral viciousness that Phoenix finds gratifying. Edgeworth's stance relaxes again once he has said that, and he continues in a calmer voice. "It's Prosecutor Klavier Gavin I need to talk to you about. I need to know what you did to the boy."

"What?" Phoenix stands, pacing from one end of Edgeworth's desk to the other. "What I did to him? What—wait, has something happened to him? Is he all right?"

"He's physically fine, at least so far as I know. He's probably still at a crime scene with Ema Skye, though I haven't heard anything from their group for a few hours." Edgeworth stands, as well, coming around the desk to face Phoenix squarely. "But I found him trying to talk himself into opening his office door this afternoon. He flinched every time I said his family name or his title. And he had a box set of stuffed animals with a tag saying it was from Trucy Wright. Since I doubt that Trucy is engaging in psychological warfare with my subordinates..."

"I didn't do anything to him." Phoenix glares up at Edgeworth, hating the way his voice sounds. Defensive. Cornered. "Trucy gave him the toys. They're legal-themed, just like the rest of his work, and cute."

"Ah." Edgeworth inclines his head a fraction. "And the fact that one is based off of you, and Klavier was the one who was responsible for your uncalled-for disbarment...?"

"I don't think Trucy's put together that Rhiny's supposed to be me." Phoenix finds his gaze falling to his shoes. "And I don't intend to talk to her about it, because that trial... she's the one who gave me the false evidence. Because Kristoph was playing her, like he played everyone, but... I don't want her to have to think about it."

"You may very well be underestimating her intelligence as well as her resilience, Wright." Edgeworth shakes his head, shoulders moving in a faint shrug. "Far be it from me to give you parenting advice—"

Phoenix snorts. "Oh, yes, far be it from you, Uncle Edgeworth, you have had nothing to do with her upbringing, oh sugar daddy who flies us to Europe—"

"But was that all that happened this afternoon?" Edgeworth pointedly ignores all that Phoenix said. "Trucy gave him a gift?"

"And I maybe might have implied that Phanty should be purple and black."

Edgeworth's mouth turns down into a small frown.

"I didn't mean anything by it, Edgeworth, it just—"

Miles raises a hand. "That's all? That was the extent of your interactions?"

"Yeah." Phoenix frowns. "Well, Trucy also wanted Gavin to promise he'd keep in touch with her and that he was all right, and he did but she thought..."

Miles raises his right eyebrow.

Phoenix continues in a whisper, raising his right hand to cover his face. "She thought he was lying. About both parts. And I convinced her she was wrong, that he was all right..."

Silence settles between them for a moment, and then Miles' hand reaches out, gently brushes against Phoenix's left. "I don't think she was wrong, Phoenix. I think Klavier Gavin is very, very close to breaking. He's good at hiding it, can smile and continue to do his job admirably, but having been there myself..."

Phoenix nods, turning away from Edgeworth, right hand covering his mouth for a few seconds as he tries to decide what to say. Tries to decide what he feels, a confusing mish-mash of sorrow and frustration and euphoric satisfaction, that Klavier is suffering as Phoenix suffered, and he hates that there is a portion of him that can take satisfaction in the boy's pain but he is old enough now to know that denying it exists won't be enough to exorcise it. "And what does this have to do with me?"

"Phoenix..." Miles breathes out the name with a depth of sympathy and compassion that most people wouldn't expect from the Demon Prosecutor, and Phoenix can feel himself shivering as he leans back against the warm body that is suddenly right behind him.

It was a foolish question, anyway. Klavier Gavin is hurting for the same reason Phoenix himself is still hurting.

He thought it would all go away, once he was declared to be innocent. He thought that things could go back to the way they were before, that he would be able to help Apollo and Athena and Edgeworth do their jobs and know he was making things better and it wouldn't hurt so much.

He thought it would make people happy, learning that he had never been a fraud and a liar, but he underestimated how much damage the legal system has taken over the years. Though the Jurist System has helped with some of it—giving power to the people, distributing it from one person's hands into several—it hasn't been nearly enough. There is too much corruption, have been too many disappointments, and there are still those who think he bought his innocence.

The days of rising stars Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth, two sides of the same coin who were going to fix the system and protect the people, can't ever really be reclaimed.

"What do you want me to do, Phoenix?" Miles' words are a soft whisper against his ear.

"I don't suppose going back in time and undoing the entire Dark Age of the Law is an option, huh?" Phoenix closes his eyes, relishing the comfort of physical contact, of support.

"No." Edgeworth's hands tighten. "But I can do... whatever you want. Fire him. Push him, see how he breaks—"

"No!" Phoenix lurches forward, out of Miles' embrace, elbowing the man in the chest with a bit more force than he intended in the process. "Fuck, Miles, why would you even think..."

Miles rubs at his side, though he doesn't wince. "I didn't think you would. That's why I made the offer. You gave me back my morals, Wright, and I trust you not to break them so easily."

"I didn't give you anything, you were already a decent person." Crossing his arms over his chest, Phoenix scowls at the silver-haired man. "And I'm not the same person I was a decade ago."

"No, but if they ever manage to break you to the point where you're willing to have me abuse my power or drive a man to suicide, I'm buying an island, you, Trucy, and I are moving there, and we're never talking to another human being ever again."

"I'll enjoy watching you try to figure out how to grow grapes, since I doubt we'll want to give up wine on your wonderful deserted island." Phoenix arches one eyebrow. "Also we're bringing more people—Apollo and Athena at least. Maya and Pearls, if they want to come. And Gumshoe, he'll be sad if you leave him behind. Which means Maggey and—"

"Stop listing everyone who will need to be dead in order for you to reach that low point, Wright." Edgeworth's mouth twitches, in what Phoenix knows is a suppressed smile. "But since you don't want Klavier broken, could you please refrain from any more mind games with him?"

"Yeah." Phoenix rubs at the back of his neck, feeling his face flush with shame. "I really didn't mean it, Edgeworth. I just... sometimes, seeing him in court, I remember how arrogant and self-righteous and—"

"I know." Edgeworth settles down into his seat with a sigh. "I don't blame you for hating him."

"But I don't." Phoenix's right hand clenches into a fist, and he forces the fingers to untense one by one as he realizes that he's not sure. He doesn't want to hate Klavier, doesn't want to hurt the younger man or himself more than either of them already has been, but if Miles had a magatama, if he had Apollo's eyes, if he had Athena's ears... would Phoenix's declaration be a lie? Phoenix's tongue stumbles on even as he reels back, yet another bitter piece of knowledge about himself to add to the list of things Kristoph's little gambit revealed. "I know he didn't know what he was doing. But he also didn't check. He had seven years to figure out who I was, to wonder why I would possibly have done what Kristoph accused me of doing... and he never looked into it. Because he trusted his brother, because he was young, but it... hurts."

"Yes." Miles rubs the fingers of his right hand along his left wrist, something Phoenix knows means he is thinking of Von Karma. Or Gant. Or any of the others that they have taken down, in what looks, year after year, more and more like a Don Quixote fight against corruption. "The pains of the past can be hard to let go of."

For a few seconds Phoenix just stands in front of Miles' desk, gazing out the window at the illuminated skyline of the city. "So... what are you going to do?"

"About Klavier?" Edgeworth shrugs. "I don't know."

"Can't you just... I don't know... order him to go to counseling?" Phoenix frowns. "You are Chief Prosecutor, and that would probably be more helpful than threatening to fire him."

"I'm not sure it would be." Rubbing at his left eye, Edgeworth shakes his head. "I can order him into counseling. I've been thinking about it all afternoon. But I also know that it did me no good after the DL-6 incident."

Phoenix blinks. "They... made you go to counseling?"

"Once they had decided that I was actually innocent, yes." Edgeworth returns to rubbing at his wrist. "We aren't completely incompetent, you know. Or completely corrupt. And it's clear to even the thickest individual that some incidents will leave... scars. So part of my continued employment was dependent upon completing a psychological evaluation with a therapist."

Phoenix thinks back to the months after they had defeated both Von Karma and Gant, to the terrible weeks when he had watched Edgeworth spiral in on himself, the months that had culminated in Edgeworth's disappearance. "It... didn't seem to do much good."

"It doesn't, if you don't want to be there." Miles raises his eyes to meet Phoenix's gaze. "Especially for people like us—people like Klavier. We're used to performing, him even more than either of us. We know, more or less, how we're supposed to be acting, and we keep the front up until we... can't."

Until it's not possible, and Phoenix shivers as he thinks back to watching Klavier this morning. Perhaps Klavier had looked... twitchy, more jittery than usual, and he hadn't played the air guitar at all, but he had performed so well...

"I'm sure I haven't been helping." Miles pulls a sheet of paper from the top drawer of his desk, frowning at it in frustration. "He's one of my best people. Competent. No signs of corruption that I could find, when I was going through everyone's case histories. Works well with others. So I've been assigning him a pretty heavy case load."

"You didn't know, Miles."

"I didn't look." Miles begins drawing arrows, clearly attempting to redistribute work. "Which is, sometimes, the greater sin."

"No." Shaking his head, Phoenix closes his eyes, picturing the seventeen-year-old Klavier he had first met, then the young adult who smiled at Trucy this afternoon as he lied to her in an attempt to give her comfort. "No matter what they say, ignorance is actually a pretty damn good reason to be wrong, and a far lesser sin than actively injuring someone. If you're not going to force him into counseling, what are you going to do?"

"I don't know." Miles taps the tip of his pen against the paper, leaving small ink spots in a dotted line. "Talk to him, I suppose, see if he'll talk to me. He... didn't seem terribly interested when I tried this afternoon, though."

"Yeah, you're his boss and you're scary."

"I am not scary—"

"Let me see what I can do." Phoenix speaks over Edgeworth.

For a moment Edgeworth just stares at him. Then he slowly sets the pen down, nodding. "That... would probably be a good idea, actually, if you're willing. If the two of you could find some sort of peace with each other..."

"Maybe, but I'm not sure how interested he'll be in talking to me, either." And Phoenix doesn't quite trust himself, still, doesn't quite know what words will come out of his mouth if he is alone with Klavier Gavin for any length of time. "But we do have a lot of mutual acquaintances. If one of them can't convince him that he needs to take some time, get his head sorted out, we've always got forced therapy on the back-burner, right?"

"Wright—" Any time there is that note of exasperation it is definitely his name.

"Exactly, right." Phoenix smiles, continuing on as though he doesn't know what Edgeworth is trying to say. "It's a good plan."

Edgeworth narrows his eyes. "This is most likely a delicate situation. I don't want you playing head games with him and accidentally..."

It hangs there between them still, not actually needing to be named, even after nine years.

"I'm not going to let him quit or kill himself or anything else ridiculous." Phoenix says the words with utter certainty—an honest certainty, one he feels to his very core. "You said he's one of your best? Well, we've got few enough people we can trust to stand with us against corruption, I'm not letting one get lost because of a little bad blood in the past. Besides, Trucy likes him, and anyone who makes Trucy sad has to deal with both of us, right?"

Miles shakes his head. "Sometimes I worry we're going to spoil that girl."

"And then you see her again, and you're once more wrapped around her little finger." Phoenix grins. "Speaking of, were you planning on going to her show tonight? It should be starting in about twenty minutes."

Edgeworth looks down at the papers spread across his desk. "I should really continue working."

"It's after seven thirty. I think you're allowed to leave it for tomorrow. Unless there's something you absolutely can't leave...?"

"No, I suppose not." Standing, Edgeworth frowns at Phoenix. "Though shouldn't you be trying to think of a plan to deal with Klavier?"

"I am. And I will continue to think while we watch my wonderful daughter perform magic tricks. Come on, Edgeworth, you haven't gotten to see her for almost two weeks."

"All right, all right." Edgeworth pulls a set of car keys from the top drawer of his desk. "I presume you want me to drive?"

Phoenix grins sheepishly. "How'd you guess?"

"Because you're not getting there in twenty minutes on public transportation at this time of night." Miles holds open the office door for Phoenix to exit, flicking off the light as he does. "Promise me you'll find a way to help him? Or tell me if you can't, so that we can look into other options?"

"Promise." Phoenix squeezes Edgeworth's shoulder. "So come relax for a little bit, all right? You won't be doing anyone any favors working yourself into exhaustion or depression, too."

"I know. It's sometimes hard to accept, especially with Blackquill and the Phantom looming, but I know." Miles' hand covers Phoenix's for a brief moment before he is striding down the hall toward the stairwell, coat billowing behind him. "Come on, Wright. We don't want to be late."

Phoenix follows Miles to his car, content with his imperfect life for the moment, mind already working on ways he can help Klavier Gavin find the same kind of peace.